Wednesday, April 4, 2018


The   Magnetic  Island  Museum's latest exhibition ,  covering the colourful history of  Olympus Crescent   and  its  residents , specifically   honouring  the  late  Margaret Vine,  was   packed   at   the   weekend  opening.

Not  many photos of Ms. Vine exist ; here she  was taken  on  her  comfortable   sitting  stone   from  which  she  could  converse  with  nature .
As usual,the museum president, Zanita Davies , and her small band of enthusiastic  supporters , produced a superb, well researched exhibition with an  exceptional  array of  interesting  related  items  on display. 
Apart from the  wealth  of  information about   Olympus Crescent residents over the  years ,  there are   paintings , books , a  clergyman's  crucifix  (bought  at  a  garage sale )  , tools , jugs, a  hunk  of  wood  from  the  oriental shaped  archway  that   once stood  at  an  early  island  guest  house    but  had  been  knocked  down  in   a cyclone   , bills , an  album of  Olympus Crescent photos damaged by Cyclone  Althea ,  illustrated   wall  panels   jam- packed  with   interest .

Putting  the show together  involved  Ms. Davies   in  many  late  night  sessions  and a  flurry of  pre event  activity on  the  premises .
 By  Peter Simon
In respect of   Margaret Vine ,  an Australian  art researcher  who  lived in 15 Olympus Crescent  from  1998  until her death earlier this year , there  is     diverse   coverage  ,  a   small  set of  binoculars  which probably were used  by her  to watch opera ,   a  bundle of   green biros she used for editing (one for  International Women's Day ) , a  champagne  flute,  a   tiny  French  Chanel  sample perfume  bottle , the   tea towel  from  her  kitchen   designed  by  cartoonist,  illustrator , writer and  feminist  (Women with Attitude series ) , Judy   Horacek ,  with  whom  she  had   been   on   friendly  terms.
Draped across  a   book awarded  to  Margaret as  a school prize was a strange  snake like object which  was  later  identified   for  me as a   green  felt  eel  sold  by the   National  Gallery of  Australia  , used  by its staff  , including  Margaret  when  she  worked  there ,  as  a  book  mark   or  when  dealing  with   documents .

A  small  item, above,  grabbed  my attention . It was a  metal spirit  measure  decorated    with  an  Australian wildflower by   the prominent Australian  painter  and print maker , Margaret  Preston  (1875-1963), regarded as one of Australia's  leading modernists  of  the early 20th century , one of the first non Indigenous  artists to use Aboriginal motifs in her works .
In  one of  her  anecdotes  Margaret Vine  gave me   , spread  over  several  weeks, she   told of walking  all  over  the  Sydney  suburb  of  Mosman while researching   the  life  of  Preston , who  spent  from  l919  to 1932  living there, the  Sydney Harbour  bridge  and surrounds   featuring  in  her   paintings . She had virtually followed in  the footsteps of  the artist , checking  on  the buildings in the pictures  and  their  owners   who   would  have  been   there  at  the  time .
The research into Preston's life   had included  trying  to trace how  the  artist had met her  husband , "Bill"  , accounts  just  saying she  had  met him in 1919 , when she was returning  from an exhibition  at  the Carnegie Institute in America , he  a  returned  second  lieutenant  in the AIF,  a   successful  businessman .
 His war record had been  studied  along with  shipping  passenger  lists .  If my memory  is correct , she  had  tracked down the  boat on which they had been  passengers .  A  shipboard  romance ?
 In any case, when  they married on December  31   that year  , the  wedding certificate showed  Margaret Preston, nee  Margaret Rose   Macpherson ,  born Adelaide,  wrongly gave her  birthdate on  the  wedding  certificate  , making her eight years  younger  than  her  husband . 
 Other items of interest include a   copy of  Ernest Hemingway's  The Old Man and  the Sea  , in  a  dustjacket, one  of  Glenville Pike's books on North  Queensland history  and  an  envelope addressed   to    Captain  Drinkwater . A fascinating   yarn  is revealed  by the  display  in which the Queensland Governor , Sir Henry Abel-Smith  , seen suited  below ,  took a liking  to a brooch  made  in the shape of a  fish , pictured,  which  belonged to  an island resident, and was knocked  back when  he wanted to put it in the  vice-regal  kitbag . 
There are many more  interesting stories which could be  written  as  a result  of  this    fine  exhibition . F'rinstance ,  Margaret  Vine used to have a sign at her abode which could give the impression that it was a retreat for the British intelligence organisation,MI5. It is explained thus.